Lords of the Bizarre World: A Review of The Bizarchives, Issue #4
The Arbo Files
lasciate ogni speranza voi que entrate
The mud below your feet is shaking and shifting. The skies are darkening with rumors of something more terrible than a storm. The animals are fleeing, and crops refuse to grow. You are not crazy. The apocalypse and its riders are on their way but fear not—the hell that cometh is not for thee. This pestilential horde is the PULP KVLT, and they ride to slay the beast of boring lit.
The Bizazrchives, Issue 4 is the latest and greatest installment of the total pulp war led by Dave Martel and his hack-writer goon squad. This volume is the biggest of the bunch, and its many interior illustrations show that a whole lot of love was put into this issue. Of stories it has fifteen, totaling a whopping 265 pages. Weird Tales, even during the height of its heyday, could not boast of such numbers. So, hats off to the PULP KVLT for that.
But numbers are just numbers. What about quality? There is quality galore in this gory, but good volume. Every single story, from the ones penned by Bizarchives veterans to yarns by newbloods, is a banger sure to be a hit with readers. Some of your favorite characters can be found here, and some new favorites make their first appearance. There is horror, fantasy, science fiction, and all permutations of said genres. The Bizazrchives, Issue 4 is the crowning achievement of the PULP KVLT kingdom, and here are some reasons why.
The odious Count Choralure returns in the volume’s opening act, entitled “Warping Woods.” Here, Choralure and his bumbling sidekick Prospero get a hit of the good stuff, aka Dragon’s Breath. This herb sends the necromancer Choralure a-dreaming, and in his dream, he sees dragons. Choralure and Prospero set out to find the last living dragon beyond the accursed Westerlands, and when they do find it, they must battle death and conjured monsters of both blood and bone. “Warping Woods” is yet another showcase of why A. Cuthbertson is, to paraphrase Mr. Martel himself, one of the best pulp authors in the world today. This blend of horror and fantasy moves as swiftly as a black stead, and even those not yet accustomed to the adventures of Count Choralure will find the story enjoyable.
Speaking of genre bending, the great M.S. Jones, author of Chronicles of Heraldria: Sacred Times - Part 1, gives us a two-fisted weird western in “Happy Valley.” The story concerns a trouble-plagued town called Doomsville. To deal with the trouble, the town’s sheriff calls in a marshal who rides a raptor instead of a horse. This marshal traffics in magick, and before long, he and a posse of armed townsmen run afoul of a shapeshifting bear that absorbs all the unfortunate humans it eats. The demon grizzly is dispatched in its charnel house in a frenzy of fun (and silver bullets). This story was one of my personal favorites, as it packs a bigger punch that an extra spicy enchilada from my mamacita’s ranch.
Jones and Cuthbertson are well-known English gentlemen whose work has appeared in all of the Bizarchives volumes so far. Another such scamp is the wonderfully talented Robert C. Booth, who presents here a post-apocalyptic version of Manchester in “Sly Silver.” This yarn includes witchery, love, violence, and multiple planes of existence. So, you know, a normal night out in Lancashire. Booth is always charming, and “Sly Silver” has this trademark in spades, albeit combined with a darker tone than Mr. Booth’s usual wares. Another BZA veteran, C.J. Miller, unveils a New Mexican horror with “Tangrils,” which, oddly enough, involves fish in the desert. You see, the titular creatures are all-consuming mutant fish that dumb folks can keep in their homes. The narrator is one such dumb-dumb, and this bad decision makes for good storytelling. The last of the experienced ones is Emre B. Tan, who ends the issue with “Twin Stars.” “Twin Stars” is a futuristic fantasy that is set in a world where two races of people are divided—those who are the Sunlight Walkers, and those who are not. Well, there is a catch. Some can be both by blood, and their sign is the sign of two stars intermingled.
Booth, Miller, and Tan all deliver knockout shots. Such punches are to be expected from such exceptional writers. But what about the newcomers—the newblood with untested keyboards? One such entity is the flâneur Matthew Pungitore. Pungitore’s “Bloodthirst Savage” is a headtrip of a story about cybernetic slayers, war cult covens, technology, and a massacre of androids. This story is a thesaurus in itself, plus its many action scenes are almost as wonderful as the big booba lady that accompanies the tale. Erik Yount, another first-timer, retells the tale of Frankenstein in “The Man Who Made a Monster.” This charming and darkly comical story takes the piss out of English village life while also giving us a juicy glimpse of a truly disgusting creature (no, not Nicola Sturgeon). In “The Crater of Asulugar,” author H.G. Byron avoids that which is Byronic in favor of high-brow sci-fi about strange domes, distant elites, and humanoid robotics who develop something greater than consciousness. “The Crater of Asulugar” is a testimony to the fact that great sci-fi is still being written, albeit outside the cloying confines of the Tor Books/Hugo Awards mafia.
The Bizazrchives, Issue 4 does its mandatory offerings to H.P. Lovecraft in the form of three tales, each covered in the familiar muck of the waters off the coast of Innsmouth. “The Thing from the Sea” by L.T. Greystoke is a short, sharp aquatic horror about an unusual starfish found after a major storm. The protagonist places said starfish in his private tank, and before the night is over, the creature grows big…and hungry. In “The Visitor” by Lionel Verney, a snowstorm strands a mute fellow with a pair of friends. Before too long, a kind of cabin fever takes hold, and bad dreams lead to surreal outcomes. By the way, the three snowbound men are Charles, Dexter, and Ward. Nice.
But, of all the Lovecraft homages, the most earnest is “The Sea God of the Canary Islands” by Damien Zehnder. This is Mr. Zehnder’s first publication, and in case you did not know, he is better known as the YouTube creator, Arkham Reporter. In true Lovecraft fashion, the story begins with the discovery of a madman’s journal. Said journal includes talk of a strange undersea god. The unnamed narrator leaves his home and his normal life to seek out this god in its sanctuary among the Canary Islands of Spain. This story is weird and pulpy—pulpy like sour seaweed.
Zehnder’s fellow South African, C.P. Webster, takes a more classical horror route with “The Reliquary.” Told in the epistolary style so beloved by gothic maestros like Bram Stoker and M.R. James, “The Reliquary” concerns one French dandy-occultist and his blasphemous experiments with the camera. Speaking of blasphemy, nothing is more hated by the Lord than the demonic, and Jordan Allen’s “A Sentinel’s Job” discusses the slaying of demons. “A Sentinel’s Job” is pre-packaged testosterone, and I personally felt my cojones expand and take on weight after reading this rip-em-up. “The Wytch of Rock Creek” by Brendan Heard also deals with the topic of devilry, and its overall mien is reminiscent of the greatest campfire tale ever told. Mr. Heard deserves credit for somehow making a written tale feel oral, and yes, I know how salacious that sentence sounds. Leave me alone, ok?
Finally, we come to Dave Martel himself. The Appalachian Apeman, The Hillbilly Heartthrob, The Paisano with the Pointed Pen. Martel’s “She Has Arrived” is a bleak story about a crazed old soldier seeking a new spawn. After six hundred years of service and too many rejuvenation injections, Karl Beorn wants a kid. He descends into the lower depths to find a new bride. This woman is impregnated and gives birth to a bouncing ball of hate. The ultimate lesson of “She Has Arrived” is not that old dudes should stop seeding the field. Rather, the lesson is this: stop sticking that shit in your veins, even if it’s “for your health.”
The Bizarchives, Issue 4 is the best one of the series so far. You cannot argue against such an obvious fact. Even more inarguable is the truth that Martel & co. are putting out the highest quality pulp fiction that absolutely decimates the competition. One almost feels bad for the normie husks ruling mainstream sci-fi. What they make and promote and award cannot hold a candelabra to even a handful of Bizarchives stories, let alone entire volumes. The Bizarchives, Issue 4 is just further evidence at the crime scene that the PULP KVLT killed all the others, and, thankfully, the beating of dead horses will continue.
Here’s to future murders, everyone. May the anti-Bizarchives forces continue to bleed.